Ninth Circuit Court Grants Time to Pima County Attorney Barbara LaWall in Monday Hearing on Abortion Law

The U.S. Ninth Circuit Court has decided to make Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery happy and grant more time to both sides in a hearing on Monday related to Arizona's ban on late-term abortions.

As we blogged last night, Montgomery filed an emergency motion with the appeals court yesterday to block Pima County Attorney Barbara LaWall from speaking as a defendant in a lawsuit against the ban. LaWall, along with Montgomery and Tom Horne, state Attorney General, were sued in their official capacities in July in an attempt to block the late-term abortion ban -- signed into law by Governor Jan Brewer earlier this year -- from taking effect.

But LaWall, a Democrat, agrees with those doing the suing, and she wanted to use part of the 20 minutes granted to the defendants' in Monday's hearing to state her position on the Arizona law -- which, in a nutshell, is that the law's unconstitutional.

See also: Bill Montgomery Says Pima County Attorney is Stealing His Time in Abortion Hearing at Ninth Circuit Court

The Ninth's order today grants both sides 25 minutes instead of 20. LaWall will use up at least five minutes of the time granted to the plaintiffs, a group of doctors and women's rights groups.

It's sort of a win for Montgomery, except now he and David Cole, the lawyer representing the state, might have to build more fluff into their arguments since they now each get 12-and-a-half minutes. Had they stuck with the original 20 minutes and split it three ways between Montgomery, Cole and LaWall's representative in the case, deputy county attorney Paula Perrera, then Montgomery and Cole would have only gotten about six minutes each.

The plaintiffs still have their 20 minutes, plus the extra five minutes given to LaWall. All in all, this exercise in emergencies by Montgomery has robbed LaWall of only about a minute, again assuming the defendants would have split their original 20 minutes equally.

But the Ninth's decision today still means LaWall will have plenty of time to make her position known. And that will underscore for the appeals court that the top lawyers from Arizona's two biggest counties don't agree on how Arizona's newest abortion law should be interpreted.

Below: Part of the e-mail exchange we wrote about yesterday that preceded the emergency motion. Note Montgomery's attitude toward Perrera:

UPDATE: Just got this from the ACLU:

ACLU attorneys in court Monday for Ninth Circuit hearing on the most extreme abortion ban in the nation

On Monday, November 5, the Ninth Circuit (in San Francisco) is hearing a challenge by the ACLU and the Center for Reproductive Rights to the most extreme abortion ban in the country. ACLU attorney Talcott Camp and ACLU of Arizona attorney Kelly Flood will be at the court hearing and available for comment.

Background: The two groups challenged the Arizona law earlier this year on behalf of three physicians and their patients. A U.S. district court upheld the law, but the Ninth Circuit issued an emergency injunction, which has so far blocked enforcement while the appeal proceeds. The law criminalizes virtually all abortions starting at 20 weeks of pregnancy and contains only the narrowest exception for medical emergencies. The ban would have forced a physician caring for a woman with a high-risk pregnancy to wait until her condition poses an immediate threat of death or major medical damage before offering her the care she needs. The ban also contains no exceptions for a woman who learns her fetus will not survive after birth.

KEEP PHOENIX NEW TIMES FREE... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Ray Stern has worked as a newspaper reporter in Arizona for more than two decades. He's won numerous awards for his reporting, including the Arizona Press Club's Don Bolles Award for Investigative Journalism.